Memorable and Accidental Marketing Lesson

At a marketing agency I ran, we had a third-story office in a nondescript, drab building surrounded by attorneys of varying specialties. It was the kind of building you'd drive past for a year and never glance at it. All of our business came from marketing and referrals as this location was in no way a marquee type location that attracted people off the street.

So it was surprising that on a Saturday - the building's not even supposed to be open on Saturday - this guy wanders in. I didn't recognize him and at first, I thought he might have been lost as the building is creepily quiet and dark on weekends.

He asks me if I'm Dean. I say yes. He tells me his name, Len, and then basically he proceeded to tell me his life story. At first, I was impatient and tried to hurry him along. However, as his story inched closer to the point of why he was in my office on this Saturday, I was hooked. His idea was a disruptive biotech product and service for the agricultural industry that he'd been developing for a couple of years. A few hours later, by the end of this unexpected meeting, I was eager to work with him, he was just as eager to start and he cut me a check for $10,000 to get going.

We worked together for many years and became close friends. Although his life and businesses are highly interesting one of the most important learning elements of this encounter was his journey to my office and how I failed.

I got lucky that he ended up my client as I wasn’t his first choice. Here’s his path to purchase:

He just moved into the state and searched online for local marketing and web agencies. My agency was one of the results and he noted it along with others.

He also asked around and was referred to mine as well as a few competitors. One of which also returned in his online searches.

He researched each website and its clientele list.

One website was more effective than mine as Len completed their call to action form and started a conversation with them. (He never contacted me through the web, phone, or email.)

He scheduled an appointment with my competitor.

Lucky for me Len, for some reason, noted my office location. On his way to his scheduled meeting with my competitor, he knew he’d be passing my office. So, he stopped. We talked and he never met with my competitor.

His path to purchase was a simple and most typical example of a marketing funnel path to purchase for my competitor. However, had it not been for the chance I would not have learned this lesson and my competitor would have won all the moments leading up to a new client.

Although the traditional customer journey has been redefined since the internet, the last 10 years (since smartphones reached critical mass) have destroyed that traditional path. The standard marketing funnel graphic is outdated. Those moments, like the example that I won by chance, happen unpredictably in real-time, often on a mobile device. And you need to be ready to win as many moments as possible as there are more than you think.

Here’s a typical and an actual consumer path to purchase from one of many Google studies.